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The Key To Marauding

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This story is No. 1 in the series "The Marauding Series". You may wish to read the series introduction first.

Summary: What if Dawn jumped instead of Buffy? What if she landed at Hogwarts? What if she befriended the four most troublesome boys ever to set foot in the school: the Marauders?

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Harry Potter > Dawn-CenteredAnoronFR1842325,97891500155,27418 Apr 043 Oct 06Yes
CoA Winner CoA Winner

Business

DISCLAIMER: If I could afford Sirius Black, I would have him. But I can’t afford him. I can’t afford new shoes, either. Obviously I am not the owner of either Harry Potter or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I bet JK Rowling and Joss Whedon can afford new shoes.

A/N; Wow, you guys really put a lot of thought into this stuff. Flattering. Anyway, just wanted to clear it up about the time-travel issue people are so taken with. FORGET IT, ok? Time is seriously not the issue here, so I’d ask you all when you read this to do what I do writing it- pretend there is no time difference whatsoever. *begs* please???? It is, however, a completely new dimension for Dawn.

A/N 2: I know I promised answers in this chapter, but the length was becoming an issue (at this rate it’ll be over in less than 10 chapters and that is most definitely NOT what I plan on letting happen!) So, again with the sorry, but your answers to some of this situation will be explained as Dawn begins to learn about it herself. I promise that it is already written, and it is absolutely the first issue off the bat for Chapter Four.

A/N 3: At least I managed to work in one meeting you were all excited for- those of you who’ve been waiting patiently for some Slytherins to weigh in will be rewarded (or more accurately, teased with it) at the end of this chapter. That other favourite snake will come into play in Chapter Four, or Five at the latest. I’ve written his intro, I’m just not sure if it will fit better in Four or Five.

A/N 4: Patience, Eleclyalll, Remus and Dawn will be out of the wolf-knowledge closet all in due time. Kat, thanks, the underwear bit was my favourite scene, too.

Last but definitely not least, thank you to my wonderful readers, and especially me reviewers! If I have forgotten anyone, I am REALLY sorry, my notes have been absolutely everywhere so if I wrote you down but missed adding you to my honour roll, please accept my apologies and feel free to flame.
Thanks, Sonofgloin, EvilAuthor, RoseWill, Rachel, Tals, Kat, lkiara, Eleclyalll, Gancomer, EllandrahSylver, Jillian, Mademoiselle Morte,

CHAPTER THREE

Dawn shifted uncomfortably against the metal bar pressing into her back. She felt something move beside her and blearily opened her eyes. It took a few moments for her vision to clear, but when it did, she found her eyes fixed squarely on what she’d evidently been using as a pillow; Sirius’ shoulder. She turned her head to the side and caught sight of James passed out next to her, glasses askew, head lolling back against the mattress, one leg thrown haphazardly over Dawn’s ankles. Almost accidentally, she glanced towards the wall clock. It was ten fifteen.

“Oh God!” Dawn bolted upright, startling Sirius and James rudely into consciousness with her.

“Whatsamatta?” James mumbled.

“It’s ten fifteen, we’re gonna miss the train,” Dawn wailed. In a heartbeat, all three of them were on their feet, staring wildly about the brightly sunlit room.

“Shit!”

“Sirius!” Dawn admonished. Even Spike watched his mouth around her, so she wasn’t one to really have a high tolerance for the swearing.

“Sorry, it’s just, I don’t even remember falling to sleep last night!”

“Neither do I,” James said, then he took charge of the situation. “Alright, Dawn, you go and get your stuff together and get ready, and Padfoot, you make sure all our stuff is together. I’ll go get Moony and Wormtail into gear.”

Without another word, the three sprang into action. Dawn followed James to the door, but before they could reach it, it slammed open to reveal a near-panicked werewolf.

“I just woke up!” Remus exclaimed, staring frantically at them.

In a flurry of activity that nearly turned the Leaky Cauldron upside-down and inside-out, the five Hogwarts students somehow managed to collect their belongings and make their way to King’s Cross station with about thirty seconds to spare.

“Sorry Dawnie, we just don’t have time to ease you into this,” James told her. She was still wondering what he meant by that when he disappeared through an apparently solid brick wall and Sirius shoved her unceremoniously after him.

With a scream of terror, she stumbled through the barrier and was caught on the other side by James. He steadied Dawn, who was busy staring at the gleaming red steam engine seconds from departing while the other three boys ran through to the platform, laden with all Dawn’s packages.

“Let’s go,” James said, running for the nearest compartment. As Peter, last as usual, clambered aboard a porter came along and slammed their door shut and the Hogwarts Express was on its way.

“Hey,” Sirius started, plopping down in a seat next to Dawn. “Sorry about shoving you like that.”

“You scared the death outta me,” Dawn pouted.

“I know. I think they heard that scream all the way back at Hogwarts,” Sirius snorted. Dawn glowered him.

“Whoa, someone’s not a morning person,” James joked, lightening the mood. Dawn’s face broke into a smile, which quickly became a yawn and before she knew it she’d fallen asleep on Sirius’ shoulder once again.

She couldn’t remember the journey at all, having slept the entire day away. She felt the train shudder to a halt and opened her eyes to find the only light in their compartment coming from the hanging lanterns someone must’ve lit for them. The four boys were all still asleep, their snores filling the compartment and when Dawn looked out the window, she could vaguely make out the shape of a darkened platform.

She turned and shook Sirius awake. “I think we’re here.”

He peered out at the darkened platform, where he could barely see the sign that read ‘Hogsmeade Station’ in the gloom.

“Yeah- home sweet Hogsmeade. Oi! You lot- wake up!” he bellowed at his still sleeping companions.

Grumbling at the rude awakening, they all trudged off the train, after assuring Dawn that it was alright, they were supposed to leave all their luggage right where it was. A carriage was waiting for them.

“Ah service,” James sighed appreciatively, climbing into the carriage. Dawn, however, stood rooted to the spot.

“What are they,” she asked, staring at the two creatures harnessed to their carriage. They were horse-shaped, but winged with black scales and red eyes. They looked nothing short of evil.

“What are what?” Remus frowned. She was looking in the direction of the invisible creatures that pulled the carriages as if they weren’t actually invisible.

“They’re Thestrals,” Peter said quietly. “I asked McGonagall once. You can only see them if you’ve seen death.”

“You’ve seen someone die?” Sirius asked both Peter and Dawn, a little taken aback as they both nodded uncomfortably.

James’ head suddenly popped out of the carriage. “Oi, I’m getting kinda lonely in here, what’s taking you lot so long? We’ll be late for dinner.”

At the mention of food, the hungry teens immediately forgot the sombre conversation they’d just been having and piled into the carriage for the short trip up to the castle. As they trundled up the drive, Dawn leaned out the window, eager for a good view of the castle as it loomed into sight above them. She had been somewhat unconscious during her first arrival, and wanted to make up for the first impression now.

“Whoa,” she breathed.

Forgetting that she hadn’t had such a stellar first impression of Hogwarts, the four boys raised their eyebrows at her reaction. The carriage halted at the foot of the stone steps and the students climbed out, eager to head straight to the Great Hall and dinner.

When they reached the Great Hall, most of the students had already assembled and the usual large platters of food had just appeared on the tables. Dumbledore raised his eyebrows at them, partly in enquiry to how their excursion had gone, partly in surprise that they had all returned in one piece. James responded with a cheeky thumbs up to the Headmaster as the group settled themselves at the Gryffindor table.

Once Remus had filled it for her, Dawn kept her eyes on her plate, feeling the curious stares of most of the students aimed at her. Nearly all of them had still been asleep the morning before when she’d come in for breakfast, so there was a lot of mystery surrounding the new girl who’d somehow landed herself in the crowd with the four most popular boys in the school. She looked up once to see Lily smile and wave at her, which Dawn returned gratefully before reverting her attention to playing with her food. Suddenly, she wasn’t so hungry anymore.

After a while, James noticed she wasn’t eating. “Hey, aren’t you hungry Dawn? You should really eat something.”

“I know,” Dawn shrugged. “But I guess I’m just too nervous to eat.”

“Nervous?” Sirius’ jaw dropped open. “What’s there to be nervous about? Although I guess it could be pretty nerve-racking being seen next to the hottest guy in school,” he joked.

“Who, Remus?” Dawn asked innocently, but the twinkle in her eyes belied her and all the boys laughed, save Sirius, who pouted at her. After their laughter had died down, Dawn leaned slightly in so she could speak confidentially. “Everyone is staring at me,” Dawn whispered, chancing a look around the Great Hall. Sure enough, several people quickly averted their gazes as her eyes swept over them.

“Oh.”

“So, you’re not gonna eat that?” Peter asked, eyeing off her almost-full plate.

“No, you have it,” Dawn passed her plate over to Peter, who dug in happily.

Finally the remains of dinner disappeared from the tables and Dumbledore stood up to address the school. “It seems you’ve all noticed by now that we have a new student in Gryffindor,” the Headmaster noted dryly, but there was the usual twinkle in his eye. “Miss Summers is an transfer student from muggle America, I trust you will all make her feel welcome. Goodnight.”

“Oh, good, he didn’t draw too much attention to me,” Dawn muttered sarcastically as they all stood to head back to Gryffindor Tower. All the students who had been furtively staring at her throughout dinner were now openly staring at her. The four boys immediately formed a protective ring around her, but Dawn couldn’t help but think this caused even more of a scene.

“is it just me, or was that an incredibly long walk?” she wondered aloud as they finally reached the corridor with their portrait entrance. It felt like hours had passed since they’d left the Great Hall.

Remus chuckled. “Don’t worry, people will get used to you soon enough and leave you alone,” he assured her. “Lion’s Den.”

They all climbed into the Common Room, where Dawn had hoped she would be free from curious stares. She had been wrong. Before she had a chance to steel herself against the onslaught, people were crowding around her, and everybody seemed to be speaking at once. Completely overwhelmed, Dawn stuck close by her friends and prayed for an escape route to present itself soon. It presented itself in the form of a fiery redheaded prefect fighting through the crowd to her.

“Hi Dawn. Can I talk to you for a minute? About your studies,” she clarified.

“Sure, Lily,” Dawn quickly agreed, stepping out from behind her four protectors.

“All right, Evans?” James asked pleasantly.

Lily just glared at him a moment before grasping Dawn’s wrist and leading her to a quiet corner of the Common Room. “You looked like you needed rescuing,” Lily smiled as they settled into armchairs. “I’m sorry- those boys can be a bit much at times.”

“No, they’re really sweet,” Dawn protested, shocked by the incredulous look that had settled over Lily’s face.

“You’ll learn,” was all Lily would say before changing the subject. “So, about your tutoring. We really will need to get a jump on it, so I was thinking we could meet tomorrow afternoon?”

“Sounds great,” Dawn agreed. She was starting to feel excited at the prospect of studying magic. She’d never been allowed to even mention the prospect of her learning magic back in Sunnydale. Not without Buffy having a total panic attack.

“Ok, so four o’clock in the Library. Bring all your books, and from your classes tomorrow we should get an idea of where we really need to begin. Now if you’ll excuse me, duty calls,” Lily announced, glaring across the Common Room to where James and Sirius were feeding dungbombs to random animals they’d procured from Merlin knew where.

“Ok. Thanks, Lily,” Dawn responded. She watched from a safe distance as Lily stormed into the fray. A mangy-looking cat Sirius had been force-feeding while James held it steady all of a sudden coughed up a foul-smelling cloud, like a haze of smoke almost. The Common Room cheered, and Dawn couldn’t help but smiled as the two grinning boys took a bow.

“Potter! Black!” Lily shrieked, effectively silencing the rest of the room. “What are you doing!?”

“Well, it’s like this Evans,” James began, offering his most charming grin. “Me and Padfoot here are just conducting a little experiment.”

“Oh?” Lily arched an eyebrow sceptically.

“Yeah. I hypothesized that when cats eat dungbombs, they belch dung. Obviously, since all that came out was dung fumes, I was mistaken.”

“So really, it was a good thing we tested that theory,” Sirius broke in smoothly. “I mean, you wouldn’t want us to have been misinformed about the effects of dungbombs and cats, would you Evans?”

Several people, Dawn included, laughed at the antics of the unofficial ringleaders of the Marauders. Lily, however, was livid.

“Both of you clean up this mess now, before I report you to McGonagall,” she hissed.

“That all depends,” James said quickly.

“On what?” Lily snapped back.

“On whether or not you’ll go out with me.”

“I think I’ll hold out for the Giant Squid. Now get this mess cleaned up,” Lily returned coldly. She spun on her heel and stomped up the stairs to the girls dorms without a backward glance. The crowd dispersed in her wake.

Scowling, James waved his wand and the mess disappeared. Sirius looked down at the assortment of animals before him, unsure what to do with them. Finally, he scooped them all up and marched over to the portrait hole. He dumped them all unceremoniously in the corridor and came back into the Common Room, dusting his hands off. Satisfied with their night’s work, he nodded to James, who, upset by Lily’s rejection, sighed dramatically.

“What is it with her?” he asked nobody in particular, and headed towards the boy’s dorms. “Night, Dawnie,” he patted her on the head as he passed her on her way to rejoin the group.

“Night James,” she called to his retreating form before shooting the others a puzzled frown. “What was that all about?”

Sirius snickered. “He’s been trying to get Evans to go out with him since last Christmas, but the Tigerlily won’t have a bar of ol’ Prongsie.”

“Why not?”

“No idea,” Peter squeaked. “Maybe she’s just crazy. Or she really does like the Giant Squid.”

“Or maybe she just finds James a little too big-headed for her liking,” Remus countered wisely.

“James? No way,” Dawn broke in. The sweet, crazy boy who not only made her feel safe, but made her laugh and feel comfortable, beg-headed? It Had to be a joke.

Remus chuckled. “I don’t think you understand, Dawn. You’ve only known us for a couple of days and James and Sirius have been on their best behaviour the entire time-”

“Hang on- their best behaviour the entire time? The publicly humiliated me in a lingerie store yesterday!”

“What does that tell you?” Remus quipped dryly.

“Oh. Well, think I’ll head up to bed. Goodnight .”

“G’night, Dawn.”

Dawn jogged up the stairs and into the dorm room she shared with Lily and a few other girls she’d been briefly introduced to downstairs. Lily was just coming out of the bathroom, towelling off her damp hair.

“Shower’s free. But I suggest you hurry, it gets pretty violent in here at times,” she commented, plopping down on her bed, which was next to Dawn’s.

“Yeah. Guess I can put all this away after,” Dawn mused, looking at all the packages that had somehow been transported from the Hogwarts Express to the floor beside her living space. She dug around in them until she found her nightwear and went into the bathroom for a quick shower.

When she came out, Lily was still the only other girl in the dorms, laying on her bed and reading one of her textbooks. Dawn sighed and dived into her unpacking. It was getting late, but she knew that if she didn’t get it all done now, she’d never get the chance once the onslaught of her classes began. When she reached the first of the bags containing the underwear James and Sirius had picked out for her, a shy grin crept over her face. In retrospect, the whole humiliating, traumatizing ordeal was actually pretty funny. Curious, Lily put her textbook aside and wandered over to Dawn’s bed.

“Erm, Dawn? Exactly how much underwear did you buy?” she asked, eyeing the four large bags.

“Long story,” Dawn muttered, shoving bundles of underwear into her top drawer.

“But it must’ve cost a fortune. How did you pay for it all?” Lily persisted.

“Actually, James bought it all for me, as well as my clothes. He was really generous the whole time we were away,” Dawn explained fondly. To her consternation, Lily started to laugh.

“Potter, generous?” she said scornfully. “You’ve got to be kidding me. Potter would never do something like that for anyone unless he could see what was in it for himself!”

Dawn frowned. Sure, James may be a little (ok, a lot) on the self-assured end of the scale, and he was pretty wild, but Lily was being completely unreasonable. She shook her head, but held her tongue, wanting to keep the peace with the only girl in their house who had really wanted to talk to her. Instead of answering, Dawn quickly finished putting her new belongings away and smiled weakly at Lily.

“I’m pretty tired, think I’ll get some sleep. Night, Lily.” Dawn climbed into bed and drew her hangings about her as Lily wished her goodnight.

* * * * *

Dawn shifted uncomfortably in her seat, waiting for her very first magic lesson to begin. She was seated next to Peter, upon the suggestion James had whispered in her ear to calm her nerves. He’d reasoned the no matter how badly she messed up first time around, it wouldn’t look quite so bad if she was sitting next to the least talented student in the class for comparison.

“Just don’t let him partner you in Potions.” Remus snickered. “You’ll end up covered in it. Peter’s potions explode more often than not.”

Professor McGonagall cleared her throat loudly and the class, fifth year Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs, immediately settled down.

“Now today we will be transfiguring toads into rats,” she announced, handing two Hufflepuffs in the front row a box of toads to start passing out. Dawn wrinkled her nose in slight distaste at the two toads that started hopping about the table she and Peter shared.

‘Least I don’t have frog fear,’ she thought to herself. Outwardly, a small smile creased her features with a memory. “Willow has frog fear,” she whispered.

Peter looked at Dawn oddly for a moment, the offered a shy, but comforting smile. Dawn’s own smile broadened in response and she turned her attention back to McGonagall, who was reciting the spell for the class.

The class first practised the incantation without their wands, and then split off into their individual tables to start working their spells. Both Dawn and Peter waved their wands and said the incantation. Nothing happened. They looked at each other, shrugged, and tried again. Still, nothing happened. The toads hopped contentedly around the table, completely unfazed by the two wands trained on them from above.

Dawn chanced a look around the class to see exactly how badly she was faring in comparison to the rest. She quickly came to the conclusion that she was terrible at Transfiguration. Every other student had at least made some progress. James, Sirius and Lily had even completed their spells, and Dawn could tell Remus would have it within the next five minutes.

Feeling a little dejected, she refocused her attention on her own toad and swished her wand with even more determination. Finally, Professor McGonagall stopped by their table to examine their lack of results.

“Pettigrew, this is not good enough,” she lectured sternly, eyeing the toad with a tiny, inch-long rat’s tail with great displeasure. “I expect this creature to be warm-blooded by the end of the lesson.”

Dawn cringed as the piercing stare was turned on her, but McGonagall simply gave her a faint smile and slightly softened her tone towards the girl. “This is difficult work, Miss Summers, so I do not expect results from you this lesson. Just try your best, and with the help of Miss Evans I expect you’ll be up to standard in weeks.”

Dawn nodded and relaxed. She cleared her mind, took a deep, calming breath and tried the spell again. Suddenly, two small, furry ears sprouted just beyond the toad’s eyes and a sparse streak of grey fur flickered down its back.

With a gasp, Dawn turned wide-eyed to Peter, whose jaw had gone slack as he stared at Dawn’s very first attempt at Transfiguration. Slowly, Dawn’s head tilted up until she found herself locking gazes with Professor McGonagall.

Obvious pride emanated from the teacher as she nodded approvingly at her newest student. “You have a talent for Transfiguration, Miss Summers,” she remarked as the bell rang to signal the end of the lesson.

Their toads (or rats in a fair few cases) were collected, and Dawn met with her friends, practically bouncing up and down on the spot in her excitement.

“That was brilliant for a first attempt, Dawnie,” Sirius grinned.

“Thanks. What do we have now?” she asked eagerly.

“Well I’m off to Arithmancy,” Remus announced, heading out the door. “See you at lunch.”

“Ancient Runes,” Peter squeaked, heading out after Remus.

“And we’re heading to Divination,” James said, as they began the long walk up to the seventh floor. “You’ll love Divination, Dawn. It’s the most useless class ever, but it’s a real laugh!”

Dawn just furrowed her brow and followed silently as the boys led the way up into the Divination Tower. They settled around a rickety table containing a crystal ball and awaited the Professor to begin the class.

“Good day to you all,” a mystical voice announced and a woman dressed all in black emerged from the shadows. “It is nice to have you all returning, and welcome to our new student, I had foreseen your coming.” The woman, who had long, crimson hair and wide, dark eyes turned her stare on Dawn, who almost shuddered beneath it.\\\\

“Yeah, she foresaw it on the attendance list,” Sirius muttered, and James snorted.

As if she hadn’t heard them, the Professor gave Dawn a vague smile. “I am Professor Damus, dear, have you any prior experience in the noble art of Divination?”

Did a couple of tarot readings when Willow and Tara were on Dawn-duty count? “Um, no. I don’t think so,” Dawn mumbled. Dropping her gaze. This woman made her feel very uncomfortable, and the roaring fire and heavy scent of incense were stifling. Less than three minutes in the Divination Tower and Dawn already felt as if she was struggling to catch her breath.

“No matter,’ Damus waved away Dawn’s lack of experience. “We shall soon see if you are gifted.”

Dawn swallowed nervously, feeling every pair of eyes in the room fixed squarely on her. But to her immense relief, the Professor meandered back through the sea of mismatched tables to the fireplace. “As you can see, we will be beginning our studies this year with some more work on the crystal ball. I’m afraid very few of you satisfied the requirements last year, as the fates have informed me.”

Dawn had to strain to hear the instructions over the loud snickering of her two companions. Finally, when James and Sirius were as settled as she could hope for them to be, she took a deep breath and stared into the murky depths of the crystal ball, willing her mind to remain blank. Beside her, she could sense her friends gazing into the ball too, though it was obvious both had immediately lost themselves in daydreams.

“Seen anything yet?” Sirius asked lazily a few minutes later. Dawn did not bother to respond. She was staring intently into the crystal ball, trying to force the soft shapes stirring within to take on some distinct form. However, James’ reply shattered her concentration totally.

“Yeah, Amelia Bones has pink knickers on,” James whispered.

Sirius cracked up laughing, shaking their little rickety table as he did so, and Dawn’s tentative mental connection with the crystal ball was broken. She only lost sight of it for a moment, but it had been enough. By the time the ball had stopped rattling and she could focus on it again, she could make out nothing but white mist.

She sighed, frustrated.

“What’s the matter, Dawnie?” James asked. “Did we forget to buy you pink knickers when we were shopping?”

“No, there was a pink pair,” Sirius recalled.

Dawn blushed, trying to ignore James’ second question and Sirius’ response while she answered the first. “I almost saw something. At least, I think I did,” she muttered. “Couldn’t quite make anything out for sure.”

Both James and Sirius blinked.

“You’re not serious!”

“No, I am.”

“Shut up, Padfoot. Dawn, did you really See something? Merlin, you could be an actual Seer,” James gave out a low whistle.

“I don’t know,” Dawn stammered. “Maybe just a little? I can’t be sure. Although. . .” Dawn’s mind wandered back to Sunnydale, and her favourite Scooby. “Tara did a couple of tarot readings for me this last year, she said I might have a little potential for this stuff.”

“Tarot did Tara readings?” Sirius quipped, making fun of Dawn’s accent. James slapped the back of his head, and Dawn couldn’t help but chuckle at the dirty look Sirius shot in his best friend’s direction.

At that moment, the Professor materialised before their table, and from the look on her face it was clear she was annoyed by the disturbance the little group was causing. “Have you Seen yet, dear?” she asked Dawn in an over-sweet tone, her eyebrows raised expectantly.

“She has!” Sirius piped up before Dawn could stop him. “Tell her, Dawn.”

“Um. . . I don’t know. . . not really. Just a couple if shadows, couldn’t even tell what they were. Sorry,” Dawn mumbled, dropping her gaze. She was quickly discovering that magical learning was not the walk in the park she’d presumed it to be. But the Divination Professor was suddenly looking at Dawn like a long-lost daughter. To the horror of the boys, she pulled up a chair beside Dawn, bumping Sirius to the side in the process.

“A pleasing first effort, Miss Summers. Now I shall take a moment to study the shadowy portents within your orb. Perhaps then we shall truly See,” she announced, staring intently into the crystal ball.

Several minutes passed silently. Sirius sighed, loudly, and turned to chat to a couple of girls sitting at the next table. A great gasp drew every pair of eyes back on the Professor, who was staring, horrified, at both Dawn and James. Dawn’s eyes widened in fear and apprehension, James merely looked bored. Like he’d heard what was coming a hundred times before.

“Death’s stain is upon you,” she whispered to Dawn, who whimpered. “It taints you, haunts you. It will be your only companion for the remainder of your life.”

Sirius glared at Damus. Professor or not, he could’ve sworn he would’ve hit her by now if she wasn’t a woman. Dawn was already shaking like a leaf, big blue eyes blinking back tears. He sent a reassuring smile Dawn’s way but she was still pale as Nearly Headless Nick.

Having caused enough damage to Dawn for one day, the Professor turned on James. “I have Seen it again, Mr Potter. A short life for you, I am afraid. You will die young.”

“So long as I get to live fast and leave a good looking corpse, too,” James quipped, supremely unconcerned as the bell rang for lunch.

“Come on, Dawnie,” Sirius ordered, still glaring meanly at Professor Damus while he grabbed Dawn’s hand and pulled her to the Tower exit. “Let’s go get some lunch.”

White and shaking, Dawn allowed herself to be led along blindly, lost in thoughts. The stain of death. So she had died, she shouldn’t even be here. Was there something wrong with her? Dawn bit her lip against the dry sob that threatened to escape her lips. She was so tired of being a freak, so tired of being unreal and wrong, and now it seemed she was even more wrong than she thought.

“That stupid bat!”

Sirius’ exclamation snapped Dawn back into the moment as they navigated their way through the castle.

“I know. If I have to hear about my untimely death one more time. . .” James chimed in. Dawn just stared up at the two boys flanking her. James swung a brotherly arm around her. “There is nothing wrong with you Dawnie,” he told her firmly. “She was just trying to scare you. I sometimes question Dumbledore’s sanity in even hiring her in the first place. What did Tara say when she did your readings, anyway?”

Finally, Dawn seemed to calm down. “That I’d meet someone tall, dark and handsome in the near future,” she giggled.

Sirius clutched a hand over his chest dramatically. “It’s like she was staring at a photograph of me when she said it!”

“More likely a photograph of me,” James countered, looking to the girl he had his arm slung around for support. “Right, Dawnie?”

A cheeky little smile stole over Dawn’s face, blue eyes sparkled with mischief. “I wonder what Lily would say to that.” James scowled and promptly took his arm away from Dawn. Sirius howled with laughter.

“The kitten has some claws hidden in all that softness!” he crowed.

“I’m not a kitten,” Dawn grumbled.

“Oh I think you are. Kitten,” James smirked, thereby christening her with the nickname.

“Kitten,” Sirius mused, looking Dawn over. “I like that. Kitten it is!” he announced as they stepped into the Great Hall for lunch. Dawn sighed, plopping into a seat beside Remus. So it seemed she now had an animal nickname. Then she thought to herself; Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs. The boys all had animalistic nicknames for each other, she supposed she’d learn to live with it. She could get used to belonging.

“How did you like Divination, Dawn?” Remus asked.

“She’s not Dawn, she’s Kitten,” Sirius blurted, rather loudly.

Remus arched an eyebrow in response, but it was Peter who spoke up. “Kitten?”

James nodded happily. “Yeah. I’d watch her though. The soft little kitten over here has claws. Sharp ones,” he warned with a wink at Dawn.

Remus chuckled. However much she appeared to be struggling to get used to it, the name suited the girl. Seemed even with the ordeal she’d gone through, the separation from all she knew and loved in the world, she was landing on her feet. Yes, she was soft and not catty in the least, but Kitten described her perfectly. It had unlimited potential.

“Fine then. How did you enjoy Divination, Kitten?” he grinned.

“The stain of death will follow me around forever,” Dawn informed him frankly. Her friends had already made her feel much better about the whole stupid thing, and she was choosing to believe Tara’s interpretation of her future. She felt that the fact that both Sirius and James were tall, dark and handsome, and she had met them in the near future from when Tara had laughingly told her that, justified her belief.

“Well, at least it’ll remind you of James, what with his tragic impending death and all,” the werewolf pointed out dryly.

* * * * *

“Hi, Lily. Sorry I’m late, I think I wandered into the wrong bathroom,” Dawn grimaced.

Lily raised an eyebrow. “Moaning Myrtle?”

“Uh-huh. Took me twenty minutes to get away,” Dawn confided, her grimace still firmly in place as she began to unpack her textbooks. Lily started picking through them.

“I think we’ll start with some early Transfiguration. It shouldn’t be much of a problem for you, considering the results you had in class this morning,” Lily mused, placing a matchstick in front of Dawn.

Dawn looked apprehensively at the match, then around at the multitude of books and papers filling the Library. “Uh, Lily? You sure this is the best place for us to be playing with matches?”

Lily sighed, fighting to stifle the laugh threatening to bubble out of her. She wouldn’t get far in tutoring Dawn if they got thrown out of the Library for being too noisy now. When you shared a Common Room with the infamous Marauders, said Common Room was never going to be a productive learning environment.

“Won’t be an issue once you turn that matchstick into a needle,” she explained. “It’s the very first Transfiguration spell students are taught when they arrive at Hogwarts. Just relax and concentrate, like you did this morning.”

Dawn cleared her mind and focused her energy on the matchstick. She whispered the spell Lily told her, mimicking the redhead’s wand movements. Ten minutes later, she had a pin.

“Well done,” Lily praised. “You do have a talent for this stuff, took me all lesson first time I tried it. Now see if you can put an eye in it, make it a needle.”

It wasn’t long before Dawn had a handful of near perfect needles sticking out the top of the matchbox like a porcupine. Lily moved on to showing Dawn a few more complex spells, most of which she was able to master over the course of the afternoon.

Lily and Dawn started cleaning up their mess before anyone noticed the water puddling around their table. The pencil case Dawn had transfigured into a water jug had proven a little thin around the base.

“So what else did you have today? Anything we need to start studying up on?” Lily asked.

“Just Divination and History of Magic,” Dawn muttered, clearly not a fan of either subject. Lily wrinkled her nose, sharing Dawn’s sentiment.

“Is it normal for people to sleep through History of Magic? I could hardly hear Professor Binns over James and Sirius snoring,” the American confided.

“Happens all the time, unfortunately. Most people fall asleep in at least one of those lessons a term. Or one a week. Or, in some cases, every lesson,” Lily rolled her eyes, all the while aware of the fact that she too occasionally fell asleep at her desk. “Let me see your timetable,” the redhead suddenly blurted, her hand held out expectantly.

Dawn rummaged through her bag until she came up with the parchment that had her class timetable printed on it, and handed it over.

“Ok,” said Lily, scanning the information. “You have Defence Against the Dark Arts, Charms and Potions tomorrow, and you’re starting Care of Magical Creatures later in the week. So depending on how well you do in each class tomorrow, we’ll take one subject to study every afternoon between now and Thursday, starting with whichever one needs the most attention.”

Dawn just nodded, having the distinct impression she had little or no say in the matter as the girls exited the Library to head to dinner in the Great Hall. Lily was reminding her just a little bit of Buffy, only academically minded. Scary.

When they reached the Great Hall, Sirius and Peter waved Dawn over to them, while James tried to grin invitingly at Lily, who merely huffed in annoyance.

“I’ll see you later Dawn,” she said, pointedly stalking to the far end of the table.

With an apologetic shrug to a sulking James, Dawn joined her friends. The second she sat down, Remus pushed her plate towards her, already piled high with delicious-looking pork and baked vegetables.

“Thanks, Remus.”

“No problem. SO how’d you go?” the werewolf replied, filling up five goblets of pumpkin juice.

Grinning, Dawn produced her matchbox porcupine. “Pretty good,” she said proudly, before her expression turned just a little pained. “Although my water jug out of a pencil case could’ve been a little stronger, y’know, and less leaking water all over the Library.”

“Hmm, yeah. I hear that helps,” James said with mock seriousness.

“Indeed,” a voice behind them chuckled.

“What’s up, Professor?” Sirius smirked at the Headmaster.

Eyes twinkling much as ever, Dumbledore raised his hands and looked up at the enchanted ceiling. “Apparently, the stars, Mr Black, if the ceiling is to be believed. Miss Summers, if you would please come to my office when you’ve finished your dinner, we have matters which must be discussed in private. I trust you remember the password?” Without waiting for a reply, Dumbledore turned and left the Hall, leaving an excited and incredibly nervous Dawn in his wake. This had to be something to do with Sunnydale, after all.

Peter frowned at her. “What did you do?”

“Huh?” Dawn blurted, startled out of thought by Peter’s question.

“What did you do?” he repeated. “To get in enough trouble that you have to go see Dumbledore on your first day.”

Immediate panic set in with Dawn. “You don’t think he’s mad about the water in the Library do you?” she asked the boys. “Or the trip to muggle London? Or the club? Or the vamp-” Remus’ hand clamped over her mouth, silencing her and effectively cutting off the public listing of their most recent crimes and misdemeanours.

“Don’t be silly, Dumbledore just wants to talk. He didn’t look mad at all,” he soothed, taking his hand away from her mouth. “Maybe they figured something out about your home.”

“Yeah,” Dawn breathed, calming down. “Yeah, that’s what I thought before.” She looked down at her barely touched plate and went to push it away, far more interested in answers than food.

“Don’t even think about it!” Sirius ordered. “You’re not leaving this table until you’ve finished your dinner, you need to keep your strength up.”

“You forgot to add ‘ I mean it, young lady’. Then you would’ve sounded exactly like my Mom used to, word for word,” Dawn told Sirius, the light in her eyes dulling at the memory of her mother.

“Hey,” James said gently, noticing the look on Dawn’s face. “Maybe Dumbledore’s found a way to get you back to her. If there is one, he’ll find it eventually, I can tell you that.”

“Thought I’d be back with her now,” Dawn confided quietly, her voice barely registering in the usual chaotic din that was Hogwarts at mealtimes. “My Mom died a few months ago, a brain tumour. When I jumped through the portal, I thought- I thought,” she sighed. “I don’t know, I thought it’d be so much simpler, that I’d see her again. When I jumped, it was supposed to kill me.”

Their little group was, for the first time ever for four of them, the quietest in the entire Hall. This time, when Dawn moved to push her full plate away, Sirius was too stunned by what she’d just admitted to stop her.

“I’m really not hungry,” she said, grabbing her bag and practically running out the doors. In the hallway, she leaned against the wall a moment, eyes closed, trying to regain her composure before facing Dumbledore. When she heard a sneering voice very close to her, her eyes snapped open in alarm.

“What’s this?”

Dawn stared up at the boy as he loomed over her, stiflingly close. He had icy grey eyes, a paler complexion than even Spike, and his long, straight hair was the same platinum shade as the vampire’s. He looked to be a seventh year, by his size. Dawn cringed against the stone wall, desperately wanting an escape from that cold, superior glare.

“Pretty, for a piece of Mudblood filth,” the boy sneered, running a finger down the skin exposed by the open collar of Dawn’s shirt.

Finally, Dawn’s body seemed to catch up to her mind’s reaction to what was going on and her mouth opened, ready to let out an ear-piercing shriek. A swift slap, hard enough to startle her, but not hard enough to mark her cheek, forced her mouth closed again.

“Uh-uh,” the boy admonished. “You haven’t yet learned the rules, Mudblood.” With that, he drew away and disappeared.

After a moment of shock and revulsion that threatened to have Dawn vomiting up all the dinner she didn’t eat, she scurried off before that boy, whoever he was, decided to come looking for her again.

* * * * *

end chapter.

A/N: Hmm, wonder who that could’ve been ;-) LOL. Like readers, love reviewers. And flamers? Well, winter’s coming on fast down here anyway.
~Anoron
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